SOUTH BEND – With the chance to add a basketball player or two this spring, Notre Dame might look to add a late-rising senior to a recruiting class that includes power forward Martin Geben (Hagerstown, Md.) and swingman Bonzie Colson (New Bedford, Mass.).
A fellow prep senior – power forward Jackson Davis of Lexington, Ky. (Lafayette) – is on the Irish recruiting radar.
The 6-8, 215-pound Davis verbally committed to Rice in the fall but didn’t sign. Davis announced recently that although he’s still committed to signing with Rice, he will re-open his recruiting and look at Butler, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt.
Notre Dame has shown interest, and the feeling may be mutual.
Davis averaged 25 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks his senior season. He scored 32 points with 31 rebounds in a double-overtime loss to perennial power Lexington Catholic in the district championship.
Notre Dame has two scholarships available this spring – one left over from last fall and one that opened when former swingman Cameron Biedscheid transferred in December to Missouri.
Geben, meanwhile, recently underwent surgery to repair a broken wrist suffered midway through his senior season. Geben already has 240 pounds on his 6-9 frame. Colson is a versatile 6-5, 217. Both will benefit from enrolling early for summer, as all Irish freshmen have done in recent years.
“Our freshmen big guys have to be impact guys for us,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We feel they can be.”
‘Tough League’ For Shorthanded Irish
Something an opposing coach said in late February may have said it best for what Notre Dame experienced during a rocky first run through the ACC.
Meeting the media after a 65-62 loss that saw his team get two clean looks from three in the final nine seconds of regulation, Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory talked of finally having one of his key guys, Robert Carter Jr., back for the first time since missing an extended conference stretch because of a knee injury.
Just because he had all his guys back, Gregory said, didn’t mean his team was exactly whole. There was little cohesion, something that would only come with practice reps, and something that at this point so late in the year, just isn’t possible.
Brey could relate, and he said so when the coaches met for a brief chat before tip-off.
“He said to me, ‘Tough league if you’re missing a guy or two,’” Brey said of Gregory. “That’s a good way of putting it. We’ve both learned from experience.”
A long 18-game regular season ended for Notre Dame earlier than any ACC team. Thanks to a quirk in the conference schedule, Notre Dame did not have a bye until the first full week of March. That meant that the March 3 loss at North Carolina was the final Irish game before the ACC Tournament.
With designs last fall of competing for one of the top four spots in the league, of getting back to the NCAA Tournament for a fifth-straight season and of continuing their reputation of playing well and winning on the road in league play, the Irish (15-16, 6-12 ACC) were guaranteed to finish no better than 10th and would open league tournament on the first day.
Having limped through a lackluster regular-season showing, the Irish finished with a losing overall record for the first time since 1998-99, also the season that former coach John MacLeod abruptly “resigned.”
After winning 14 road games over its final three seasons in the Big East, Notre Dame staggered to a 1-8 league road record with only a win at Boston College. The 12 league losses were the most for the Irish since going 4-14 in the Big East in 1995-96.
Notre Dame never was going to be whole following the Dec. 21 loss to Ohio State, a game that saw the Irish let an eight-point lead in the final minute get away. In the hours that followed, the team’s leading scorer, top playmaker and best player, guard Jerian Grant, would return to campus, pack up his belongings from the off-campus apartment he shared with teammate and best friend Eric Atkins and head home to Bowie, Md.
An “academic misstep” cost Grant his spring semester. It was the first of many unusual happenings in the days and weeks and months to come around the Irish program. Notre Dame would lose power forward Tom Knight to injury and illness for three weeks. Austin Burgett underwent outpatient heart surgery to regulate a rapid heartbeat that cost him a month. Freshman Demetrius Jackson spent a week away from the program to better his “academic habits.”
Just when one guy would come back, another would go down. Just when one guy played well, two guys didn’t. It was that type of yo-yo winter.
Brey wondered after the Georgia Tech game when his team had finally felt whole. Did it ever?
“I felt a little bit more starting with the Clemson game,” Brey said of the Feb. 11 game Notre Dame won in double overtime. “Burgett and Knight were back for us in rhythm, and you could count on those guys.
“Going forward, here are the guys you have available.”
But in a season when seemingly anything bad that might happen usually did, Brey’s feeling of finally having a healthy roster lasted all of five games. Midway through the second half of the March 1 overtime loss to Pittsburgh, swingman Pat Connaughton crumpled in a heap on the sideline after suffering a sprained left ankle. Connaughton limped off the court, spent a few minutes in the training room, and eventually returned to the game. Having scored 19 points with 15 minutes left in regulation, Connaughton didn’t score again as the Irish lost for the sixth time at home, their most home losses since 1998-99.
Here we go again, Brey thought when he saw Connaughton laying motionless.
Connaughton took enough aspirin to get 17 points and 13 rebounds in 37 minutes in the loss to North Carolina. But Garrick Sherman sat out his first game of the year after aggravating a right pinkie finger injury (chip fracture) suffered against Clemson in the Pittsburgh game.
Brey hopes to have Sherman back for the ACC Tournament. After that, who knows who’s next?
So much for being whole. Again.
The news continues to be nothing but bad for Notre Dame power forward Eric Katenda.
Katenda appeared this winter in the first two games of his collegiate career – he played three scoreless minutes – but again is out with an ailing right knee. Katenda underwent microfracture surgery in the fall and was sidelined six weeks. The knee began bothering Katenda again in late February.
Katenda is scheduled for another PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) injection therapy session and will not play the rest of the season.
It could mean the end of his career. Bothered by assorted injuries since he arrived in 2012, Katenda may eventually take a medical hardship waiver to finish out his studies.
“You look at him and how he physically comes back here in spring workouts and see where he’s at, see where he’s at through early summer workouts and then make some decisions on that,” Brey said. “Let’s give him time to recover from this procedure and see what’s up.”